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FunSwimShop.co.uk - Advice Improving Your Swimming Strokes
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Improving your front crawl stroke
If you are a beginner, consider taking a few minutes initially in each workout to do some "mock breathing." In this exercise, you would stand in the pool and move your arms in the stroking motion while your lower body remains stationary.

The purpose of this is to see how your arms and head move together. Your arms should move, at the top of the stroke, in the formation of an S, and your head should only come out of the water far enough to take a breath of air.

Do a few laps in which you experiment with breathing. What do you notice about your stroke? Some people feel comfortable breathing only on the left, or breathing only on the right. It's also possible that you are most comfortable if you breathe on both sides. Your stroke would then look like: stroke, stroke, breathe right; stroke, stroke, breathe left; so on and so forth. Capitalise on what is the natural swim technique for you.

Head placement during front crawl breathing is key. Many people are inclined to overturn their heads while taking breaths of air. Resist this urge. It is Important to remember that the less movement your body makes, the less energy you expend. Turn your head only as far as is necessary to keep your water-side cheek parallel to the bottom of the pool.

Treading water for one to three minutes at a time is a terrific tool for building up your core and upper body strength, and can build your overall confidence in the swimming pool. Also consider using
Zoggs Flexi Paddles to boost your arm strength. You can swim the crawl stroke for 100 metres while you wear these paddles.

Lower body strength is also important in that your legs are responsible for half of the stroke. In each swim workout, make sure to do some work with a
kick board. Try swimming 100-300 metres with the kick board, and alternate kicking your feel above the water and below the water every 50 metres. Wearing flippers
for several laps is another great way to build lower body strength, and to power the overall stroke.


Improving your backstroke
Even expert swimmers find the backstroke to be wearing. One of the main reasons for this dissatisfaction with the backstroke is the failure to fully incorporate the entire body into the stroke. Fortunately, the backstroke can be rewarding if it is carefully studied and practiced.

The backstroke looks like a swimming stroke that requires intense arm movement. There is some truth to that, but the majority of the movement should be stimulated by your shoulders and not by your arms. When you do the backstroke, you should try to reach as far as you can with your arms as you shift your shoulders.

The shifting of your shoulders is like a dance move or an exercise move that requires the rolling of your shoulders. The motion isn’t caused by your arms but by your entire upper body movement. This can best be paralleled to a motion that is similar to rowing a boat. Try to think of rowing a boat one arm as a time, and that is how you want your stroke to look.

When doing the backstroke, kick your legs up and down rapidly. The style of kick is the same as that required for front crawl, the only difference being your heels will enter the water instead of your toes. Most importantly, keep a constant kick so you won’t have dead weight dragging in the water. The purpose of kicking is to counter the weight of the bottom half of your body, and thus propel your body forward in motion.

This is the only swimming stroke that doesn’t require a breathing method, however you do need focus and perspective. If you are swimming indoors, try to follow a pattern on the ceiling, so you won’t drift from one lane to another. If you are swimming outdoors, glance over to the side to gain some perspective. Due to the vision impairment caused by swimming on your back rather than your front side, try to maintain a steady movement and use the markers on the sides of the pool to keep a proper lane formation.


Improving your butterfly stroke
The butterfly stroke requires co-ordination and stamina to move the arms and legs together in what can seem an unnatural way, but mastering the stroke is a great achievement and well worth aiming for to improve your swimming fitness and efficiency.

The most important thing to remember is that, as your hands come in, your hips go up. Timing these movements together is essential. Beyond that, it is important to consider the following:

- Your body should be horizontal and as flat as possible.

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Apply downward pressure through your chest to balance the body. This is often referred to as ‘t-pressure’, meaning the t-shape of your body from armpit to armpit across and the length of your torso downwards. Applying pressure in this way balances weight away from your hips and allows them to move upwards.

- Use your arms wisely; if you try to bring them together to meet at the front of you, you will use more energy. The arms should ideally finish each stroke shoulder width apart in front of you.

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Raise your elbows. Keep them near or above the surface of the water, don’t let them drop lower than the wrists, and keep them pointing outwards. This will help you to pull yourself with the full weight of your arm and not put too much pressure on your elbows.

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The butterfly kick is actually two kicks. One kick is a big kick, with knees bending and kicking out while the body leaps and dives forward. Then, during the glide, the whole body whips the legs into a second, 14er kick.

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Practice the kick without the stroke to get a feel for using your whole body. Extend your arms and undulate your body through the water.

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Try practicing the kick with fins on to get the feeling of a powerful and fluid kick.

The Monofin is particularly useful for developing the strong legs, abdominal and back muscles required for the butterfly technique.


Improving your breaststroke
Breaststroke is the only stroke where both the arms and the legs are recovered under the water. This makes it the slowest stroke, as there is more resistance to forward movement.

Underwater Breaststroke swimming will help condition the lungs. Swim one stroke on the surface of the water and two strokes underwater with rest intervals at every length, known as hypoxic training this will improve the lung capacity. Only swim for as long as is comfortable.

Swim with a long glide and count your strokes for each length. Ensure good streamlining as you stretch down the pool with hands and feet together. Ensure a long glide as you push off the wall with one pull and one kick underwater. Good streamlining underwater will ensure you swim faster.

Pay particular attention to your kick as this is the key to a good Breaststroke.

Using a large
kickboard concentrate on lifting your heels high up to your costume line. Always turn your ankles and feet out sideways in order to catch the water and push it back. Feet come together and meet up at the end of every kick.

To work on your arms take a
pull buoy
and place it high between your legs. Let your legs float as you concentrate on the stroke. Pull no more then twice shoulder width apart and apply more power as the hands sweep inwards and upwards to the water surface, breath and recover the hands quickly forwards.